Catholics get chance to celebrate, think about Mary with new feast day
A mosaic of Mary as Mother of the Church is seen above St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in this April 13, 2011, file photo. Pope Francis has instituted a new Marian feast honoring Mary as mother of the Church. It will be celebrated every year on the Monday after Pentecost. (Credit: Paul Haring/CNS.)
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Catholic Church doesn’t often add new celebrations to its pretty full liturgical calendar, but this year’s new feast day, Mary, Mother of the Church on May 21, has Catholics gearing up to mark the day or at least think a little more about Mary.
The new feast day, which will be celebrated annually the day after Pentecost, was announced in a March 3 decree by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The decree said the pope approved the celebration because he thought it might “encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety.”
Gloria Falcao Dodd, director of academic programs for the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton, Ohio, wrote a paper about this Marian title in 2006. Her research shows that a bishop in the 1100s called Mary, Mother of the Church, and Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical on the rosary said that Mary at Pentecost was “in very truth, the mother of the Church, the teacher and queen of the apostles.”
And in 1981, the title “Mother of the Church” was given another boost when St. John Paul II had a mosaic commissioned for the outside wall of his papal apartment called “Mater Ecclesiae” (“Mother of the Church”) in gratitude for his recovery after being shot in St. Peter’s Square. Then, and other times, the pope spoke of Mary as a mediator, or someone who intercedes for us, said Falcao Dodd.
That idea of Mary interceding for the Church, as a mother does for her children, is important for Catholics to consider, especially as this new feast falls so soon after Mother’s Day, said Falcao Dodd. She also said it is key to understand its placement right after Pentecost, noting that at the time of the original Pentecost, Mary “did what a mother would do - she prayed with and for her children in the upper room.” And at Jesus’ crucifixion, when he publicly announced to the disciple John, “behold your mother” about Mary. John, symbolizes all of us, the Church, Falcao Dodd said.